Humanising CX: Retaining the Human Touch in the Digital Age


By: : Irene Xu, Principal Industry Consultant, Banking at SAS

Digital has long become the main avenue for meeting customer expectations as it offers a more convenient and holistic way of interacting with the brand. As a result, customer expectations have skyrocketed to new heights; banks today cannot afford to lag behind, and maximising the data at their disposal is critical.

Despite the multitude of options banks have in pursuing digital transformation, many of today’s financial institutions still grapple with reimagining and elevating their customer experience (CX). Ad hoc approaches to tech-investment decisions may work adequately in the short-term, but in the long run, leads to a proliferation of systems that cannot communicate with each other, can be difficult or unable to integrate, scale or modify. More critically, it is almost impossible for banks to make consistent, coordinated decisions over customer engagement or interaction due to silos and prolonged decision-making lead times that foil efforts to offer personalised customer experiences at scale.

With years of experience working with the banking industry, we believe the first step to creating relevant, moments-based CX is about deeply understanding customer journeys. When banks can understand the emotions and the ever-evolving needs of customers across each touchpoint, they can enhance and tailor their offerings accordingly. Consumers, too, will delight in a frictionless user experience that offers convenience, speed, greater choice and more informed decision-making about the financial decisions that they will make.

Without that key first building block, however, customer experience will be mired in irrelevant marketing campaigns with poorly articulated messages and frustrating customer service interactions. Customers and employees alike demand more transparency, fairness and value from banks they do business with. It is incumbent on banks to meet these demands by continually refining their CX strategy to forge better connections with customers, especially through strategic partnerships with non-financial players or Fintechs. As CX continues to transform, it is no longer a linear move. The customer journey is broken into numerous touchpoints where decisions have to be made with high relevance at scale, and in real-time.  

Innovation is crucial for any business aiming to drive sustainable growth and ensure future success. But blending innovation with a human-first mentality provides the impetus for lasting impact. The surge of online engagements is not only an illustration of the rising need to humanise CX in the wake of the pandemic, but also provides new opportunities to reimagine the banking experience through insights that boost customer mapping. With customers increasingly dependent on technology, digitisation that retains the human touch is essential to differentiation and gaining imperceptible insights that enable the customer journeys to be enriched via discovery of new trends and swifter forecasting.

This is achieved by powering CX with AI. Integrating AI to uphold customer centricity, by way of gathering information about the consumers and their personal feedback, humanises CX and enables banks to deliver enhanced experiences that are a genuinely caring. In addition, adaptive planning, journey activation, and a real-time decision engine enable banks to create customer experiences that increase customer loyalty and engagement, thus bolstering sales and overall profitability.

Fewer human interactions without losing the human touch

Humanising the customer experience goes beyond just knowing and understanding what the customers need. Understanding the “Why” and “What” will equip banks to better embed their products and services to meet the needs of their customers, to create bespoke experiences throughout their banking engagements.

For many banks, human-to-human interaction has always been the norm. It was a given in the not-too- distant past that, upon entering a bank, a customer may go directly to a bank teller, who would either provide assistance or offer opportunities for the customer’s benefit—be it opening a savings account, purchasing insurance, or applying for a loan. This created genuine connections with the customer.

Now that majority have gone digital, whether they be mobile devices, internet banking, or call centres, human agents are now backed by digital solutions with automation. It is undeniable that the future of CX is digital. While human interactions remain important, incorporating AI into digital CX platforms will empower banks to offer a much more holistic and hyper-personalized experience, thus enhancing the overall experience of each individual customer.

A data-driven approach to addressing consumer needs

According to a report by IDC, by 2024, 25% of brands in Asia Pacific are expected to incentivise consumers to share personal data in exchange for cash rewards, more personalised treatment and exclusive experiences. However, data without context is just data. While many banks have already deployed AI or are working on it, AI isn’t just about crunching data and building models, it’s about enabling more personalised, frictionless and intimate experiences for customers

For example, with greater knowledge about their customers, bank agents can now manage their customers more effectively, regardless of whether the interaction takes place face-to-face at a branch, or if a customer calls a hotline for assistance. At the same time, banks can also use the insights derived from these engagements to further develop their products and services, enhance their employee training programs and discover untapped opportunities to deliver more innovative offerings to their customers.

As digitalisation continues apace, changing the way people interact with banks, customer expectations likewise grow. In tandem with a highly competitive financial services landscape, the urgency of effective digital transformation directly impacts banks’ ability to delight customers and, ultimately, improve the bottom line. With open banking development emerging as a new reality, enhancing business ecosystem strategies and hyper-personalization will be the cornerstone of rewiring customer-facing functions and driving banks to become customer-obsessed and to reignite growth.